Former 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner will be offering his GP insights on a regular basis to cyclenews.com readers and we're happy to have him. For more from the Wollongong Wonder, visit his website at www.waynegardnerapproved.com.au.THAT PASS...
First thing's first and straight to the point: I thought the move by Marco Simoncelli on Dani Pedrosa during Sunday's French MotoGP was too aggressive. Yes, it's racing, but remember, this sport is extremely dangerous and you've got to consider not only yourself, but also the safety of other riders. Simoncelli simply passed around the outside of Dani and closed the door. Now, that sort of pass is okay - provided you leave plenty of room for the other rider. Marco could have given Dani more room, which would have allowed both of them to negotiate the corner safely. But by turning in on top of him he ensured the Repsol rider had nowhere to go, forcing Dani to stand the bike up. That's where it all went wrong. You could write the whole thing off as a racing incident, but the truth is it was a very dangerous, high-risk move. They both could have gone down and it's certainly not something I would have attempted.
So, was the ride-through penalty imposed on Marco a fair decision? It's a tough call, but I reckon it probably was. The whole thing was totally avoidable. That said, you might ask how this incident differed from the time when Valentino Rossi took out Casey Stoner at Jerez earlier in the year. If Simoncelli got penalized, why not Rossi?
I wouldn't mind betting that the fallout from Jerez has led to a change of approach from the race director. I think the issue of dangerous riding has been brewing ever since, and I think the Simoncelli incident and resulting penalty may be a line in the sand. Now that a precedent appears to have been set, the question is: Will there be any consistency with these rulings in the future? We'll have to wait and see. Personally, I think anything that discourages super-risky moves is a good thing. Otherwise we may end up with riders engaging in tit-for-tat aggression that may result in people getting seriously hurt. It's too late for poor old Dani, of course. This latest disaster may have ruined his whole season. He will race at Barcelona in three week's time, but you don't have to be a medical genius to know he won't be at his best.
Okay, onto the rest of the weekend's action. Firstly, congratulations to Casey and Honda. Last week I tipped him for the win and he certainly delivered. The acceleration of the Hondas is just far superior to all the other bikes, and at a tight track like Le Mans, with lots of stop-start corners, it really showed. Casey did his part by controlling things from the front and staying out of trouble. In fact, all the Hondas looked exceptional. I think that unless you're riding one this year, things are going to be increasingly difficult.
Given what went on ahead of him, it's fair to say that Valentino Rossi's breakthrough third place was a lucky result. But in racing you take what you can get. And to be fair, that Ducati looks a lot tidier than it has in recent months. It still looks very difficult to ride and you can see that Rossi really struggles to turn it, but there's some definite improvement. Tellingly, he was able to mix it with Lorenzo and Dovizioso and I think this is very encouraging for the future.
Over at Yamaha, and I'm not sure what's going on with Ben Spies. Something is missing. He seems to have lost his confidence and his pace. Yes, the Yamaha is down on speed and acceleration, but the fact he was out-qualified by Cal Crutchlow on a satellite bike indicates that he has an issue. So far, he really hasn't been able to improve on his form of last year, despite being on a factory bike. That surprises me. He's clearly a better rider than his current results are indicating. But at this level, you only need one domino to be out of place for things not to work. Hopefully he and the team can get to the bottom of things very soon.